Gamechanger – Ballblazer

Ballblazer, 1984 - LucasArts Entertainment

Ballblazer, 1984 – LucasArts Entertainment

In 1984, George Lucas expanded his empire, and the Lucasfilm Games brand launched by releasing two games.  Rescue on Fractalus! was a first-person flight-rescue simulation, similar to Choplifter.  It certainly was a fun game, but the other title released by Lucasfilm Games was Ballblazer.

Headed towards the goal

Headed towards the goal

Ballblazer is, essentially, a futuristic soccer-hybrid, where players face off one-on-one, by piloting rotofoils across a very large playing field and trying to score goals.  The play field, represented by a checkerboard-pattern, is surrounded by an invisible ‘grid’ force-field that cannot be penetrated, but the ball will ricochet off it.  Like soccer, and football, and hockey, etc, the goals are on opposing sides of the field, but it bounces back and forth along the boundary of the field.  Goals are scored by running, or throwing/firing a ball through the goal.  Running through only gets a player a single point, short-to-medium distant shots are worth 2 points, while a scoring shot when the goals are not visible to the player gets you 3.

It goes through the uprights

It goes through the uprights

Defense is played by running into the opposing rotofoil and firing against the ball it’s carrying.  If successful, and rotofoil’s don’t have great ball-handling skill, it sets off a mad scramble for the ball.  In fact, the ball-and-grid physics of the game make this a particularly unpredictable and fun part of the game.  Ballblazer is an incredibly important game, stretching the ‘computer sports’ experience into real-time, first-person, multi-player gameplay.  An amazing achievement that is one of the building blocks for modern head-to-head gaming.  And the soundtrack rocks, created by an algorithm at Lucasarts Games, not a human.

Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80's, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP's in the mid 1990's. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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